Decision day approaches for possible stake cuts on fixed odds betting terminals for UK bookmakers

  • Government announces review into FOBTs on Tuesday
  • Options will include a reduction in maximum stake to £2

UK bookmakers are anticipating a reduction in the maximum stake for fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) and a number of other measures, including an obligation to fund a problem gambling awareness campaign, when the government announces the findings of a review into the industry on Tuesday.

Theresa May's UK general election call is to delay a report on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.
Theresa May is reported to be supportive of a stake reduction from the maximum £100 on fixed odds betting terminals.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is expected to provide a range of maximum stake options for FOBTs, which currently allow gamblers to bet at the rate of up to £100 ($132) every 20 seconds, but according to reporting by the Guardian newspaper, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, is personally opposed to maintaining the current maximum of £100.

It is reported that the maximum stake options will include a drop to £2 – the level favoured by the opposition Labour party and a number of campaigning groups – a stake of £50 – which is likely to be greeted with relief by bookmakers – and another option of between £10 and £30.

Nightmare scenario

UK bookmakers earned £1.8bn income from FOBTs in 2016, a figure that amounted to over half of their revenues, and the Association of British Bookmakers has claimed that a drop in the maximum stake to £2 could lead to the loss of 20,000 jobs in the industry and a significant fall in the level of tax revenue from machine gaming, which was £700 million last year.

But according to reports in the UK media, the bookmaking industry has accepted that the maximum FOBT stake is going to be reduced, and it is thought unlikely that they will challenge the government’s final decision. The industry is also likely to be charged with doing more to prevent problem gambling, including contributing funds to an industry awareness campaign and providing better training for its staff.

The review was originally due to be released in June, but was delayed by the surprise general election. It is likely to be published on Tuesday morning, following the opening of the London Stock Exchange, and there will then follow a twelve-week period of consultation before the government makes its final decision.

But there appears to be some uncertainty over exactly in what terms the announcement will be made.

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